With party-aligned legislators in St. Paul blaming and opposing each other at seemingly every political opportunity, Minnesota - now more than ever, perhaps - needs a leader in the governor's office with the ability to mediate and relate and the experience to communicate effectively for cooperation and results.
We can choose a command sergeant major and member of the Minnesota National Guard for 24 years, a congressman and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, and a onetime high school geography and government teacher and basketball and football coach.
"I supervised the lunchroom for 20 years, so I'm a realist, but I do believe in big dreams," Walz said during a candidate-screening interview this month with the News Tribune Editorial Board. "Leadership at a time of a very fractured politic is (what) people are really looking for. (It's) who do they identify with, not who do they think has all the right answers or who do they agree with all the time. It's, 'Who do I think at least understands where I'm coming from?'"
Walz's positions are as clear as they are reasonably considered.
The DFLer supports thoughtful and responsible spending for education, transportation, and other priorities Minnesotans ought to be able to count on their government to provide. Walz already has been a watchdog against wasteful spending in Congress. He and Rep. Ron Paul, a Libertarian and Republican, co-authored a bill to audit the Federal Reserve. Walz also pushed to audit the Pentagon to make sure public dollars weren't being wasted there, either.
"I'm going to shine a sharp eye on programs" in Minnesota, too, as governor, Walz said. "Programs that are working and returning money to the taxpayers, I'll ask that we continue those or beef them up."
That approach will be applied especially to education, Walz vowed.
"Use best practices; use the holistic approach to make decisions together as a state; go honestly to the taxpayers and say, 'This is what it's going to cost for us to get this world-class education;' and then figure out the metrics (for) those who say, 'How are you going to pay for it?' I want to show the reductions in the costs of incarcerations as part of the return on the investment we're making for education and tell taxpayers, 'You can pay us now or you can pay us (more) later.' That conversation has not truly been had."
Walz remains realistic about and supportive of copper-nickel mining.
"We need those minerals," he said, pointing out that every megawatt of solar power requires 5.5 tons of copper. "We especially need them in a clean-energy economy. I know they're being mined elsewhere right now, and I know they're not always being mined in an environmentally responsible manner. I think there's a responsibility for us."
Exhaustive, years-long environmental reviews of mining projects leave Walz reassured that new copper-nickel mining will be done safely in Northeastern Minnesota.
"If anything jeopardizes clean water, we will not do it," he said. "But I trust Minnesota's permitting processes."
Walz also supports Duluth's voter-endorsed but Legislature-rejected half-cent sales tax proposal for street repairs. The local sales tax shouldn't even be necessary, though, Walz said - not in the Minnesota he envisions, where the entire state provides for and takes care of the entire state.
"If we had done our job and if legislators had done their job, we would share (Duluth's street-maintenance needs) as one Minnesota. That burden shouldn't fall directly on Duluth alone because (the entire state) is benefitting from Duluth," Walz said. "I think someone should have told that story better (at the Legislature)."
As seasoned and strong a candidate as he is, Walz's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson of suburban Minneapolis, disappointingly disclosed that he wasn't familiar with Duluth's proposal for a street tax. Not even with Duluthian Donna Bergstrom as his lieutenant governor running mate. After it was explained, Johnson said in a separate interview in September with the editorial board that he opposed it.
"I'm a local-control guy, but my gut is we are so overtaxed in this state right now," Johnson said.
Walz's running mate is Rep. Peggy Flanagan of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and a resident of St. Louis Park near Minneapolis. In the Legislature, Flanagan has a reputation for advocating for children and families. She's Twin Cities-centric, which balances with Walz's nonmetro background - nonmetro like Northeastern Minnesota.
Walz vowed as governor to work with Republicans who currently control the majorities in the Minnesota Legislature.
"We need to find solutions, and if the best ones come from places where I wasn't expecting, I want to see those," Walz said. "We need to move forward for Minnesotans. That means working relationships with the folks who are there. It means having a track record like I have of bipartisanship and bringing people together to solve problems, not finding a squishy middle but respecting where others are at."
About this endorsement
This News Tribune endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the newspaper's Editorial Board. The board's members are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken, citizen representative Julene Boe and citizen representative Denise Wise.